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Fast-growing firms flourish in surprising places, report says

By Steve Rosen, The Kansas City Star –

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — High-tech hotbeds such as Silicon Valley, Boston and Seattle aren’t the only areas of the country attracting concentrations of fast-growing businesses.

Snow Belt and Rust Belt cities are drawing entrepreneurial activity too, according to a Kauffman Foundation report released Wednesday.

The Kansas City-based organization’s comprehensive examination of companies that ranked in the Inc. magazine 500 in the past 30 years found that fast-growing firms encompass an array of industries to areas that are not typically recognized as being hubs for technology-based businesses.

“Our analysis of these fast-growing firms shows us that high-growth company founders can come from anywhere,” said Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.

The foundation study examined geographic trends of firms listed in the 1982 to 2011 Inc. 500 to see how regional characteristics are associated with high-growth companies and innovations.

According to the study, the highest concentration of fast-growing companies was in the Washington D.C. area.

“The growth of the private sector in the D.C. metro area, among the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas in the past two decades and the first to recover from the housing bubble in early 2009, ironically has deep ties to the federal government,” the foundation said in its report. The Washington metropolitan area, which includes Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, was home to 385 Inc. firms.

The other metropolitan areas in the top five were Salt Lake City; Austin/Round Rock, Texas; the San Francisco Bay area, and the Boston metro area. But areas such as Buffalo, N.Y.; Indianapolis; Atlanta; Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia; and Nashville, Tenn., also made the top 20.

Other findings:

—Cities that educated the most business founders were most apt to retain the home-grown talent.

—The South had the highest number of founders educated, retained and attracted.

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